While the vast majority of the demographic currently consuming the content wasn’t even born in 1993, the call to ‘Get Vertical’ was made popular by Mountain Dew long before social platforms decided to pivot their visual content strategies to meet the dimension of an iPhone screen. Optimized to capture the full attention of the consumer, vertical video content has also completely altered the way in which brands, organizations, and individuals now prioritize their communications and content strategies. And while the concept to Get Vertical may not be new, capitalizing on the fast-paced and evolving vertical video landscape presents a number of opportunities and challenges. From storytelling and comedic content to trending dances and questionable audio tracks, identifying ways to adhere to brand standards and appeal to broader audiences has required tremendous creative thinking and a strong commitment to excellence.


To support a robust vertical video strategy at the University of Michigan, we started with staff – first evolving an existing content specialist role to focus solely on the effort – and then eventually hiring specifically for an experienced vertical video professional. Additionally, changes were made to our intern program by starting to seek more on-camera than behind-the-scenes experience. The evolution of these aspects of both full-time and student staff positions has enabled us to build a cohesive ideation shop solely focused on figuring out how to optimize our key messages and institutional priorities into popular formats with timely trends.


The content derived from this new restructured process has created an array of opportunities for increased collaboration, unifying messaging and acting as yet another amazing service to our toolbox of resources for campus partners. From dinosaurs roaming the Earth at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital to the College of Pharmacy receiving their white coats to our new president’s first game at the Big House, ensuring that a wide variety of individuals and groups are highlighted on the university’s vertical channels furthers our mission of equity by telling even more inclusive and diverse stories. These successful adaptations also have sparked innovative ideas to address evergreen topics or discussions like campus construction or course selection. Traditionally popular dialogues like the first home football game of the season or beating our biggest in-state rival have also benefited from our vertical video strategy, increasing the variety of perspective offered and available to our communities. 


Finally, paying homage to the things at the University of Michigan that make it such a unique place through vertical video has been a focus of ours that will continue into 2023 and beyond. Although recapping exciting events and hopping on trends certainly helps with growing a following, sometimes it’s important to remember that our content still needs to also cater to individuals who already follow our accounts. By combining some of the flashier content with nostalgic and atmospheric campus vertical content, we have seen highly emotional reactions in the comment sections from our followers. We have especially emphasized this on Instagram, posting content about not stepping on the Diag Block M, the campus blue buses, fall colors in Ann Arbor, and even one of the famous squirrels on campus. All of this content has performed exceptionally well, and we foresee all three content formats remaining as a strong part of vertical video strategy moving forward.


Although our vertical content has allowed us to touch on more topics and events in a more efficient manner with video than ever before, the frequency or timeliness of the content would mean nothing if it wasn’t reaching our intended audience while also growing that group. Luckily for us, our vertical content in the latter half of 2022 continued to grow and set us up to reach an even wider audience in 2023. In less than six months, our vertical content has achieved 9 million total views, a reach of over 8 million, and close to 650,000 engagements. This content has helped us grow our Instagram following by over 36,000 followers and our TikTok following by over 12,000 followers during that time. We have posted Reels with close to 450,000 views and TikToks with over 230,000 views, and while we are happy that this content has been well received, we are far from satisfied with those numbers. Heading into 2023, we look forward to continuing to utilize these aforementioned strategies with new ones as we strive to build an even larger, more engaged audience on these platforms, as well as any new major applications that may emerge. Regardless of the platform where content is ultimately posted, vertical video is definitely here to stay, and we look forward to the challenge of using it as an everyday visual tool with unlimited potential and an exceptional reach to tell the stories that make the University of Michigan the home of the Leaders and Best.